published Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Panel moves ahead on East Brainerd school architect

East Brainerd Elementary School
East Brainerd Elementary School
Margaret Fenton

Plans for a new East Brainerd Elementary School are moving forward, just days after the Hamilton County Commission moved to halt progress on the new school.

Commissioners voted 7-2 on June 6 to stop the architect selection process, which began in May. But on Friday, the architect review committee met to hear presentations from five firms hoping to build the new school.

The committee, made of commissioners, school board members, school officials, county employees and a community representative, narrowed the pool of five firms to three. The county mayor and the schools superintendent will now select the architect to design the project.

The new East Brainerd Elementary will be built on the site of the former David Brainerd private school on Igou Gap Road.

Commissioners passed a resolution last week after they heard about a three-way land swap proposal that involved the school system, Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Housing Authority trading the current East Brainerd Elementary site for a piece of land near the Howard School of Academics and Technology.

Commissioners criticized that proposal as a bad deal for the school system and were angry that they didn't know about the deal, which had been in the works since March.

The school board has not discussed or voted on the proposal in a meeting, though the CHA and Chattanooga already have approved a land swap deal between themselves that doesn't include East Brainerd Elementary.

County Commissioner Tim Boyd presented the idea of putting the brakes on the architect review process. The commission's resolution said the East Brainerd process is on hold until the Board of Education presents commissioners with a comprehensive plan for land acquisitions, exchanges or sales and all future building projects.

Boyd and Commission Chairman Larry Henry attended the review committee meeting Friday. Boyd said he was OK with moving forward after the city and CHA reached an agreement that didn't involve the school system.

"I think that kind of cools everybody's jets a whole lot. I'm just kind of sitting in idle mode on it," he said after the meeting.

Boyd said he didn't think the East Brainerd construction project would be slowed down so long as the school board doesn't start negotiations on getting rid of the current school site.

"I think the ball's in the school board's court right now," he said.

Commissioner Fred Skillern said he had no problems with the architect committee moving forward. But he said the work is "fruitless" until the school board decides what it's doing with its property and the commission votes on whether to fund the project.

"It's fruitless until you know what you're going to do," he said. "Why do you continue with something that's in doubt?"

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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